Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: It's still a hobby (Score 2) 46

by PhantomHarlock (#49339961) Attached to: Dueling Home Automation Systems at SXSW (Video)

Like another earlier poster, I still consider home automation to be a hobby, especially after trying it enthusiastically for a while. Reason being: It's expensive, it takes a lot of time, it's buggy and it's not necessary. But it can be fun if you're willing to deal with the downsides.

The big power-user product for home automation control is a very powerful piece of software called homeseer. If you're really serious about it and you want to do a lot with scripted events, that's a good bet, although it's not consumer friendly. It does run locally, you're not surrendering data to a company or the cloud and everything is yours and everything is configurable. I'm curious about the new localized box in the link as an alternative.

For a while I installed insteon switches and controllers all over the house. One by one they died, I don't think they liked the unreliable power where I lived at the time. Frustrated, I tore it all out and went back to plain old switches; I knew they would just work when I needed them to. I'm open to trying again, especially now that I am in a much larger house and I want to do things like gang-control upstairs and downstairs thermostats in unison to optimize efficiency for the temperature gradient, and control far flung light switches with a master switch or smartphone app. But it's quite an investment to replace all those switches and outlets. Fortunately you don't have to go all in at once, you can just do the things you need the most to start with.

Comment: compliance cars (Score 1) 229

It seems like most pure EV's from the major manufacturers are so called 'compliance cars' built to meet (largely nonsensical) regulatory requirements. They are not widely advertised and no one buys them because they are so expensive compared to their IC counterparts and have significantly less range. The Tesla model S, an EV designed for its own sake, is a wonderful exception, but the price point puts it out of range for 95% of consumers.

Given the slow incremental improvement in battery technology, do you envision a cost effective, honestly mass market-palletable EV being possible in the next 10 years? Is GM working towards that goal?

Comment: The target market... (Score 1) 300

by PhantomHarlock (#48741637) Attached to: Why We're Not Going To See Sub-orbital Airliners

...will basically be executives who's time is worth the price to get them to Tokyo and back for a deal. The very nature of the beast entails a small number of seats and thus a high price per seat. The cost and logistics go up by a very large amount when you increase the size of the vehicle. There are also issues with generating supersonic booms in places that are not used to it, limiting it to mostly ocean overflights or re-entering over sparsely populated areas. It won't be a mass market item, but there may be a market for it. In the mean time, up-and-down suborbital will have a larger market than point to point.

Comment: rewind to the real problem (Score 1) 342

by PhantomHarlock (#48188259) Attached to: An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

Burning Man has created an artificial monopoly for ice. By the description it sounds much like bread lines in Russia. If you try to bottleneck and manage essential goods at a single source, it invariably gets unmanageable as it scales up. They're dealing with a pretty large population these days for a bunch of festival organizers.

Based on the commenter who described the actual process via way of being a volunteer, a short term solution without getting into the political questions is to massively increase parallelism during peak times. Despite the pretty simple process, the peak demand is straining the system.

If they kept statistics about load vs. time they could figure out easily when to have a whole bunch more labor present to get the job done more quickly for the throngs of thousands.

Comment: It's been tried... (Score 1) 48

Funny enough it's been tried as a business concept, though under different circumstances. In the mid-90s a company called AngelCorp wanted to build a series of manned aircraft that could loiter at high altitudes for long periods of time to provide high speed internet access. This was shortly before DSL, CableModems, WIfi and T1/T3 connectivity at the workplace would pretty much saturate that market. Bad timing.

Scaled Composites built one ship, the Proteus, a beautiful, revolutionary aircraft that is still in use today for many other payload missions such as airborne laser testing. The Proteus was also the uncle of White Knight I, the mothership for SpaceShipOne.

  The odd thing is, the AngelCorp website still exists, frozen in time.

With advances in battery propulsion and cheap UAV / drone guidance systems, it could be a workable thing for providing temporary access to remote regions.

Comment: Vegas Movie Studio (cheap not free) (Score 1) 163

by PhantomHarlock (#47808977) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: the State of Free Video Editing Tools?

If you are open to using Windows, buy a copy of Sony Vegas Movie studio for fifty bucks. It's a stripped down version of Sony Vegas, which is a very powerful professional editing package, I prefer Vegas to Premiere and Final Cut.

Basically I did not see any limitations with the movie studio edition that would prevent you from making nice, clean HD videos. The editing interface is far better than Premiere's as far as I'm concerned.

Comment: Re:As an ex. Commodore Service tech (Score 1) 192

by PhantomHarlock (#47498451) Attached to: The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

I saw her still doing stuff for Newtek at NAB shows until more recently, she still looked good. Yup we all loved her back in the day. :)

Also, by the time Voyager came around LW was being used on windows machines. I turned down a job doing the 'anomaly of the week' for Voyager at Foundation to go work at Digital Domain instead. Large unix-driven renderfarms for LW and their other tools. Pretty spoiled for gettin your frames done...also never worked with more talented people in my life. They had just come off doing Titanic and The 5th Element. Lots of Lightwave digital ship shots in Titanic by Frank Alber, he went on to become a big guy at Pixar. The stuff still holds up today.

Comment: Re:Not Forgotten (Score 1) 192

by PhantomHarlock (#47498123) Attached to: The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

Here here....a lot of show title sequences rendered on the one we had at the station. That eventually led to my vfx career. Got in when lightwave was the hot thing and rode it all the way to its peak down in LA. Good times. Eventually got tired of staring at a monitor for 10 hours a day though and switched careers. Still do a little photoreal FX rendering as part of my job, but only about 10% of it now.

Comment: Re:As an ex. Commodore Service tech (Score 1) 192

by PhantomHarlock (#47498059) Attached to: The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

There were some great demos coming out of Europe. I remember trading them at swap parties.

I'm guessing Newtek did not want to make an entirely different hardware rev for PAL on the toaster. Wasn't as easy back then to just handle both with a software switch. :) Would be a huge investment for both software and hardware departments.

I did also have the A3000 which was my last big Amiga build. there was also an A1200 which was a later version of a 500-type layout. I don't remember if that was US only.

Comment: I owned one (several) (Score 4, Interesting) 192

by PhantomHarlock (#47498009) Attached to: The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

I owned just about every Amiga model put out in the US, but the A2000 was the workhorse business machine. Coupled with the video toaster card and lightwave it was a video production tool that cost about 1/10th to 1/100th of what it would cost to assemble all of the discreet machines it replaced. With the addition of the Flyer card it also became a non-linear editor, a tough feat in those days. I did a lot of good work with my A2000. I had the SCSI controller and a hard drive (probably 40 - 80 MB in those days)

I was also big into Amiga gaming as it was way ahead of its time compared to PCs and Macs. You would pop in something like Shadow of the Beast and just marvel at the arcade quality parallax scrolling and really nice stereo sampled sound using all those nice custom chips that PCs and Macs did not have.

The linked article is very short on details (there are many) for those of us who lived through it, but even after all this time my own memory of specifics of things is basically gone.

A good book to know why all of this did not last or evolve is "The Rise and Fall of Commodore". For those of us who started with the C=64 era and went out till the end with the Amiga, it's an enlightening and sometimes frustrating read about the politics behind our favorite company.

I think that outside of serious collectors and computer history museums, trying to maintain and fiddle with the hardware today is, well, a dedicated hobby. Best of luck. You're often better off with the emulators out there to get your feet wet.

Within the limitations of technology at the time, the Amiga era was a grand ole time, and we all knew we had the best at the time. Thanks to marketing by other companies who think they invented everything, it will indeed likely be relegated to a forgotten footnote of personal computing history. For those of us who lived it, it was a way of life.

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes. -- Dr. Warren Jackson, Director, UTCS